‘Screens Hurt Their Creativity’: An NYC Dad Learns at 92Y Parenting Conference

I squirmed, I sweated, felt guilty and encouraged, I laughed and held back tears, had the weight of the world shove me to the ground, and then was given a hand that brought me back up. And all that happened before lunch. My run through the emotional parenting gauntlet was courtesy of the “What Do You Really Need To Know As A Parent” conference at the 92nd St. Y held Monday, Feb. 11.

kids-on-laptopAt the end of the day, while recollecting my thoughts after hearing from the numerous speakers about the most important job I will ever have, one thing in particular stuck in my mind – the growing impact of electronic media exposure on our children.  Many of us have done it to keep our children calm or quiet in public spaces – used electronic media as a pacifier. Our children begin to act up and we hand them our phone to play video games or watch a movie.

But our actions are not without consequences. Dr. JoAnn Deak explained the physiological effect on our children from the screen time:  “It is lighting up the pleasure centers, the same places that light with cocaine and heroin.” And just like when a drug addict gets a fix, our children calm down and blankly stare, only later to be wound up again.  Handing our children over to screens hurts their creativity, as both Dr. Deak and Dr. Susan Linn explained.  Later, Dr. Michael Thompson agreed with the drug analogy and pushed it further,

“We’re modeling it. We’re the crack dealers. [and it’s] a battle we have to fight on behalf of young children.”

Raising children is hard work; as Dr. Gail Saltz noted:  “The most difficult job of 2013, without a doubt, is parenting. What can make you more joyous than anything in the world? Your child. What can make you the most anguished? Your child.”

So how can parents help their children through those difficult moments without resorting to electronic pacification? Dr. Thompson pointed out that we have to accept that we can’t make our children happy all the time – we have to establish limits and boundaries and recognize that children have different personalities than adults. Dr. Linn suggested that we limit children’s screen time to 1 to 2 hours a day.

Handing an electrical device to a child in order to buy a few moments of peace may be the easier way, but it isn’t the healthier way.  In those moments when it may be tempting to hand your child a screen, Dr. Ron Taffel’s suggested approach might be more productive – meet your children where they are emotionally, empathize with them, know their temperament, and love them.

Jason Greene is a SAHD in Queens where he and his wife are raising their three children. He’s set aside his dream of being an actor for fatherhood and writing, from children’s books and theater to his blog: thejasongreene.com. Follow him on Twitter @thejasongreene.

More on the first-ever 92Y Parenting Conference:

    •   Parenting Experts Share Wisdom at 92Y
5 Responses to “‘Screens Hurt Their Creativity’: An NYC Dad Learns at 92Y Parenting Conference”
  1. Donita says:

    Great read.
    I especially like how you shared the feelings you experienced as you went through the conference! I imagine most parents there went through the same thing. So many of us are trying to hard to do it well and feeling like we are doing it all wrong at the same time!

  2. Dawn Roode says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your reaction to the conference at the 92Y. Love your quote: “Handing an electrical device to a child in order to buy a few moments of peace may be the easier way, but it isn’t the healthier way.” So true. And I must say, I find it amazing that with all the research, the AAP has not altered their view of 2-hour limit of screen time per day—just goes to show how much pressure there is from corporate America and media, etc.

    I also think as parents (and consumers of media) we have read the same stats over and over about how too much screen time is not good for our kids, but we have never been shown the new studies that are leaning towards proof that it may be HARMFUL to them…we get numb to hearing it, and just go with the flow (how easy is it to be swayed by seeing every other parent on the checkout line hand an iPhone to their kids, to see your smart sister offer up the TV to the kids as a way to get some work squeezed in…when it seems the norm, why should we be exceptions, we think)!

    Thanks for offering up your reactions to these experts, and I am sorry I missed meeting you on that day.

    • Jason Greene says:

      Sorry to miss you also. I headed over to the Toy Fair after the conference and was shocked to see so many toys, games, even many craft toys that came along with an Ap. It was as though they were telling children, “go ahead and play for a little while, then when you’re bored go and grab a screen and let the real fun begin.”

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